I walked into the Burton-Taylor Studio halfway through a run of the show. The cast continued with the performance without pause as I settled in, provoking the feeling that I’d stumbled into someone’s kitchen during an argument. Director Hugh Tappin informed me as we were walking in that this was a “pasta” run, rather than a tech run, as the show requires the character Kyra (Natalie Woodward) to cook onstage. And I was not disappointed by the wholesome smell of spaghetti bolognaise wafting throughout the BT. The term ‘fly-on-the-wall’ was used during discussions with the cast and crew, and I have to agree that the atmosphere and tone of the entire production gives a sense of voyeurism and intimacy; stemming from naturalistic acting, and bolstered by pasta making, and realistic set.
The richness of Hare’s script means that certain aspects of the story will resonate with different audience members: for some it is about love, for some class and politics, and for some grieving.
The set is gorgeous. It’s nice to see productions working with the BT to produce ambitious sets rather than settling for minimalism. Touches such as a record player, curious detritus and all the various utensils of a fully-functioning kitchen are combined with the BT’s wooden floor and roof to create a very believable impression of loft living. Excitingly, the crew’s determination to immerse themselves in the world of the play has lead to them creating opportunities to speak to the writer David Hare, as well as borrow a full breakfast set from the Ritz hotel.
The scenes I watched featured Tom (Adam Diaper) and Kyra disputing about everything from politics, cancer, family, social workers, and their former love affair. Diaper commented that the roles are enormously rich and textured, and that the challenge for the actors is to bring this messy, tangled, backdrop of character and history into the play whilst maintaining clarity. I applaud both Woodward and Diaper for the scenes that I saw which showed aplomb at navigating through their characters’ arguments without just devolving into a shouting match. Just as importantly, both characters seemed to be developing a language of silence and physical engagement that can turn slight glances over the bubbling pasta sauce into moments as charged as when they were screaming at each other.
I was concerned that both actors I saw were not off-script. However, I hope that this means tomorrow’s opening performance equates to a charged and living drama rather than one that is stagnant and passive. Woodward commented that the richness of Hare’s script means that certain aspects of the script will resonate with different audience members: for some it is about love, for some class and politics, and for some grieving. Tappin suggests that key to the show is to realise how messy love is. Given the pasta sauce splatters and upturned crockery, I think this production of Skylight is on its way to realising that. And I wish them all the best!
Skylight plays at the BT Studio until Saturday of 8th Week.